Paul Gorman is…

Memories of SEX in Forum magazine

//Steve Jones, Unknown, Alan Jones, Chrissie Hynde, Jordan, Vivienne Westwood. Photo: David Dagley/Rex Features.//

SEX became a magical place.  People spent hours there; no one wanted to leave.  In it, I created a feeling that was both euphoric and hysterical. You felt an enormous range of possibilities – that whatever was happening couldn’t be predicted, but it was a movement toward a place unknown.

Malcolm McLaren, Musical Paintings [JRP Ringier 2008].

One of the most prescient pieces published about 430 King’s Road in its incarnation as SEX appeared, appropriately enough, in sex magazine Forum in the mid-70s.

And, after more than 35 years, I’ve tracked down the writer and the photographer who, for the first time anywhere, recall the revolutionary retail environment and the sexually-charged photo-shoot featuring future Sex Pistol Steve Jones, performer Chrissie Hynde, radical shop assistant Jordan, film-writer Alan Jones and, of course, Vivienne Westwood.

The feature appeared in the June 1976 issue of the magazine and was written by expat American Forum staffer Len Richmond, later to pen hit British sitcom Agony and Three’s Company (the US version of the UK’s Man About The House). The photographer was Chelsea-based freelance David Dagley.

“In 1973 I’d arrived in the UK from San Francisco with 300 bucks in my pocket and found that I could work as a journalist because nobody cared about whether I had a green card,” explains Richmond down the line from Los Angeles.

Within a couple of years Richmond had been taken on by Phillip Hodson and his wife Anne Hooper at Forum, a monthly pocket-sized publication where sexual relations were surveyed in a serious, non-prurient manner.

Ever on the look-out for subject-matter, Richmond was drawn by the giant pink rubber SEX sign which had been erected on the facade of 430 King’s Road the previous autumn. Richmond also had a personal interest, since his mother owned the second-largest manufacturer and wholesaler of sex toys in the US at that time.

“So, you know, always on the look-out for clients for Mom, I thought I would go see these guys,” says Richmond. “In fact they didn’t stock her products, but I realised that it was a great subject for Forum.

“The leather gear interested me; as a gay guy from San Francisco I was into leather, though I thought the rubber stuff was curious. I hadn’t really hooked into the British love of rubber, the cutting-off of the air, the really constrictive clothing. It kind of horrified me, to be honest, as liberal as I was. But I saw that the t-shirts with the porn extracts were part of the overall act of rebellion. Whatever they could do to piss off people, they would.”

Richmond also suspected that the rubber-wear was part of the arsenal of provocation. “It was another way to say: ‘Nothing bothers us. We’re going to throw this in your face and get a reaction from you.’ I suppose the Sex Pistols were a natural progression of that attitude.”

Richmond distinctly remembers Malcolm McLaren being present on the visit in spring 1976, though he took a back-seat role as Westwood gave the journalist a tour and history of their residence at the site, laced with polemic.

“We’re here to…convert liberate and educate,” said Westwood. “We want to inspire people to have the confidence to live out their fantasies and change. What we’re really making is a political statement with our shop by attempting to attack the system.”

On Richmond’s return for the photo-shoot with Dagley a couple of days later, the atmosphere was very different.

“It was like a party,” says Richmond “Everyone was so wild; I don’t know whether it was drugs or what to put it down to, but they didn’t have any of that British fear of sex. Look, I got laid a lot in England; that’s one of the reasons I stayed 18 years. I found the British were so inhibited about picking each other up that when I went into gay bars and was assertive, I frequently got what I wanted.

“So, to me, everyone in England seemed ashamed of the fact that they had sexual needs. But at the photo-shoot I was in an environment which actually embarrassed me, quite a feat at the time. When the women painted the letters S, E, and X on their buttocks and started sticking their arses into the photographer’s face I thought: ‘This is too hot for Forum! These people are on another planet’.”

Dagley is more phlegmatic. “I could see that this was ground-breaking stuff, but for me it was just another job,” says the photographer, these days largely retired and living outside London. “It was my idea that they write the shop name on their buttocks. I thought it would add another fun element to the session, and they were certainly up for it.”

Included in some shots is Jones in a so-called “Tits” t-shirt and Hynde and an unidentified female in rubber dresses by John Sutcliffe’s company Atomage. A couple of years before he died, McLaren recalled that the red-haired woman was of Jewish extraction and hailed from Finchley, in north-west London.

“The whole tenor of the day was ‘sex is fun, and the more far-out sex is, the more fun it is’,” says Richmond. “In fact, reading my article again after all these years I realise I lost some of the fun of that day. At the time Forum was trying to be legit and I had to focus on the social context, at the expense of a certain amount of the in-your-face irony and sheer silliness.”

So how did the day play out?

“I had to get the hell out of there once we were through,” says Richmond. “It was too much for me, very heterosexually threatening. They were basically saying: ‘Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me’, very into touching and seducing. I don’t know that they would have gone through with it but I could tell they rather enjoyed my fear.

“When I reflect on that day I realise it was a turning point in my life. I was very smug about being so sexually liberated but these people taught me I was still inhibited, a bit behind the times. That was sobering and I was never quite so smug again.”

These days Richmond is a documentarist: his latest film is What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?

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Author: / Published: Jan 31st, 2011 / Category: 430 King's Road, London, Photography / Comments: 19

19 Responses to “Memories of SEX in Forum magazine”

  1. Mondo
    on Jan 31st, 2011
    @ 8:19 pm

    I’m surprised the red haired girl has never been identified – I’d love to know who she is. There’s a few other anons from this time I’d like to hear more from – the guy who kicked his TV in during the Pistols Grundy appearance..and the girl who ended up the wrong end of Sid’s flying glass during The Damned’s 100 Club set (I believe she was a friend of Vanian’s)

  2. Paul Gorman
    on Jan 31st, 2011
    @ 8:34 pm

    Yes I’d heard that. It is strange how she has never materialised. Often wondered whether the guy that kicked in the TV was made up. The redhead has been named (her first name – Stephanie? – possibly by Alan Jones) but I couldn’t find the ref in time. Also MM told me some stuff about her but that will have to wait as well.

  3. Tweets that mention Memories of SEX in Forum magazine « Paul Gorman is… --
    on Jan 31st, 2011
    @ 11:48 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul Gorman, Mrs Gorman. Mrs Gorman said: RT @PJGorman: Memories of SEX in Forum magazine – […]

  4. Tim B.
    on Feb 1st, 2011
    @ 2:51 am

    Fantastic Paul…I’ve posted a link:

  5. Live Out Your Fantasies
    on Feb 1st, 2011
    @ 4:56 am

    […] Memories of SEX in Forum magazine « Paul Gorman is… “We want to inspire people to have the confidence to live out their fantasies and change. What we're really making is a political statement with our shop by attempting to attack the system.” On Richmond's return for the photo-shoot with . […]

  6. Paul Gorman
    on Feb 1st, 2011
    @ 8:43 am

    Thanks Tim

    Yr a gent.


  7. Brian
    on Feb 2nd, 2011
    @ 6:18 pm

    the guy who kicked in his tv set has always been named as James Holmes, I believe, and was referred to as being 47 at the time, so he’d be 81 or 82 by now, if he is still living, and if he existed in the first place.

    the injured girl from 100 Club? yeah, supposedly Vanian said something from the stage to the effect of someone close to him (near to him? dear to him?) being injured, I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly the context, someone should ask him.

    oh, yeah, great post by the way Paul! thanx!

  8. Ken
    on Feb 4th, 2011
    @ 3:22 am

    Is the red haired girl Tracy O’Keefe? Looks like her a bit.

    Someone in the bromley contingent said they were there when sid threw the glass and the girl did get hit.

  9. Paul Gorman
    on Feb 4th, 2011
    @ 8:27 am

    Hi Ken
    No it’s definitely not her – as I say MM told me some background about her and what she went on to do and I have seen her identified by her first name but can’t remember where.
    Isn’t the story that SV didn’t like The Damned so chucked the glass and it shattered against one of those posts and the caught the unfortunate girl?
    I was on the receiving end of his puerile behaviour once so that makes sense to me.

  10. Jonh Ingham
    on Feb 10th, 2011
    @ 12:13 pm

    I was standing near the back in a straight line out from the stage when Vanian made the announcement. Sid had been somewhere in the middle and then moving around and said something to me as he passed about them being terrible. He wasn’t in my sight when Vanian made the announcement. I certainly didn’t see anything thrown or smash off a column. I can’t remember if Vanian stopped the band or if it was between songs but he said (as printed above) something about ‘someone’ very dear to him’ having been hit in the eye by flying glass. He said it in a very emotional voice and really loudly – obviously shaken.

    I’ve never read or heard of this girl being named or interviewed. Surely it’s as simple as asking Vanian who it was.

    The red haired woman in the photo was never at a Pistols gig or punk event that I was at – I would certainly have remembered! But for people like Alan, it wasn’t about the music or that movement and they were gone before it even gained a reasonable audience.

  11. ‘It is here that McLaren is turning the dream fantasies of the 60s into the death-wish of the 70s’: David May interviews Malcolm McLaren at 430 King’s Road, November 1975 « Paul Gorman is…
    on Aug 13th, 2012
    @ 11:38 am

    […] Read about the genesis and history of the Naked Cowboys shirt here and writer Len Richmond’s 1975 visit to SEX for Forum magazine here. […]

  12. For the first time in 36 years the whole article: Forum June 1976 featuring SEX + Incognito Leather « Paul Gorman is…
    on Oct 25th, 2012
    @ 6:38 pm

    […] Read Memories Of SEX In Forum Magazine – my first post on this article – here. […]

  13. Constructing unreconstructed types | Limpid Lech's finds
    on Dec 7th, 2012
    @ 3:33 am

    […] Chrissie Hynde with Vivienne Westwood and friends. “For the first time in 36 years the whole article: Forum June 1976 featuring SEX + Incognito Leather“ […]

  14. Keith Povall
    on May 13th, 2013
    @ 12:29 pm

    Whatever happened to Forum. I remember it being a well written magazine.

  15. Paul Gorman
    on May 13th, 2013
    @ 3:24 pm

    I guess it fell foul of the growth of mainstream porn from the late 70s and was crushed by Penthouse’s version. I was in contact with the owners for this piece who I aim to focus on at some point because the publication can be scene as rising out of the counterculture and the underground press.

  16. The Cowboys came from Colt Studio « Paul Gorman is…
    on Jan 31st, 2015
    @ 7:37 am

    […] world of gay art to publicly-worn clothing must be considered not only in the context of SEX and the social and sexual mores of the times, but also in relation to the visual identity of a […]

  17. Roots of the Cowboys t-shirt « Paul Gorman is…
    on Jun 30th, 2015
    @ 7:24 am

    […] Of course, by the time of the t-shirt’s emergence, McLaren was well acquainted with Sutcliffe and his activities. Copies of the AtomAge magazine were scattered around SEX, and the store sold AtomAge clothes; Chrissie Hynde wore a black + red rubber number during the infamous Forum shoot. […]

  18. Photography: Jordan by Peccinotti « Paul Gorman is…
    on Jul 15th, 2016
    @ 5:42 am

    […] In the same section there is an un-captioned shot of a female pubis revealed by unzipped SEX jeans similar to those worn by Jordan’s fellow SEX assistant Alan Jones in the infamous Forum magazine shoot. […]

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